Irish Involvement with ESO

Artistic illustration showing what the luminous blue variable star in the Kinman Dwarf galaxy could have looked like before its mysterious disappearance. Credit: ESO/L. Calçada

Ireland joined ESO as a Member State on 28 September 2018. As a very recent member of ESO, the country’s community of scientists and engineers is expected to play important roles in developing future advanced instruments and telescopes. 

Ireland currently contributes 1.32% of ESO’s revenue (2021 contribution), worth 3 535 000 EUR. 

As of mid 2022, there are two Irish employees at ESO, one in Germany and one in Chile. Furthermore, ESO has awarded two fellowships to Irish nationals since 2011, as well as two internships since 2009.  

Ireland is represented in the various ESO governing and advisory bodies by astronomers and policy experts; the current Irish representatives of ESO’s various committees with national representation can be found here

The ESO Science Outreach Network (ESON) includes Irish representatives who act as ESO’s media and outreach local contacts. 

Here follows some information about Ireland’s involvement with ESO. 

Discoveries by Ireland-based astronomers using ESO telescopes 

As a new member of ESO, Ireland will lead and contribute towards a considerable amount of astronomical research using ESO facilities in the coming years. The following are examples of important past discoveries led by astronomers from Irish institutions: 

  • Researcher Andrew Allan of Trinity College Dublin discovered the mysterious disappearance of a massive star. “This would be the first direct detection of such a monster star ending its life in this manner,” says Andrew Allan in the ESO press release about the discovery.  
  • Emma Whelan at the School of Cosmic Physics in Dublin, used the UVES instrument at ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) to discover jets of matter being ejected from a brown dwarf, leading to a greater understanding of the properties of these small objects.  

Irish involvement in ESO instruments and telescopes at ESO sites 

Ireland will contribute to many aspects of ESO, especially with ESO’s upcoming Extremely Large Telescope (ELT). The ELT will be the world’s largest eye on the sky, and Irish institutions will help develop the advanced instruments to be mounted to the telescope. For example, through the University of Galway, Ireland is part of the consortium that will develop the MORFEO (previously known as MAORY) instrument for the ELT. MORFEO will be key to enable other ELT instruments to take exceptional images of the Universe.  

Irish industry and technology contributions to ESO 

Since Ireland is a recent ESO Member State, it has had limited opportunities to contribute to ESO projects. Nonetheless, Irish company Electronic Product Services Ltd. developed photodiodes for ALMA photomixers, while Andor Technology produced a CCD camera for Paranal Observatory.  

Irish industry contributions to the ELT 

Even though Ireland joined ESO after the vast majority of ELT contracts had already been awarded, some Irish companies have contributed to the project. For example, Irish company Superlum Diodes Ltd. provided laser diodes for ELT tests.  

Additional Involvement 

As part of ESO-led training opportunities, ESO has a collaboration agreement with the Irish Research Council. Under this agreement, ESO hosts Ireland-based PhD students enabling them to work and to study under the co-supervision of an ESO staff astronomer. This collaboration aims to enhance Ireland’s involvement in ESO by providing additional opportunities for Ireland-based PhD Students beyond the standard ESO studentship programme